Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Day 11: Mount Massive to Southern Mount Elbert Trail

Warm fingers of soft, golden sunlight caressed the tent as we woke. My first waking thoughts were of Mount Massive and Mount Elbert and how to climb them both given the vagaries of Colorado weather. Eager to get on the trail, I began packing up.

The Mount Massive trail wound its way through the woods before climbing into a beautiful, alpine meadow. Across the meadow we saw our destination, Mount Massive (14,421 feet) towering over us. Mount Massive, like many Colorado mountains, is more rounded and gentle than many of its rugged Sierra Nevada counterparts, with alpine meadows stretching almost all the way to the top.

A pudgy marmot scampered up the trail on thick, chubby legs and we followed him. We climbed steeply up rocky alpine meadows, watching plump marmots chasing each other. We soon reached the ridge, where we enjoyed an incredible view of the mountains as far as the eye could see.

Continuing up the ridge the trail became very rocky, in places more rock scramble than trail. After two false summits we finally reached the top. Mount Massive (14,421 feet), the second highest mountain in Colorado and the third highest in the lower 48 states! Two friendly Denver locals were kind enough to take our picture (below).

The descent went quickly. After returning to the Colorado Trail we hiked on to the junction with the Southern Mount Elbert Trail, where we set up camp. Weather permitting, we will be climbing Mount Elbert in the morning.

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